Afghanistan’s Shapoor Zadran (right) embraces teammate Samiullah Shenwari as he celebrates his team's Cricket World Cup Pool A win over Scotland in Dunedin, New Zealand, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. (AP picture)
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DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) — The Afghanistan cricket team brought tremendous joy to their far-flung fans when they beat Scotland by one wicket in the last over to claim their first win at the Cricket World Cup.
Samuillah Shenwari scored 96 to bat Afghanistan to the threshold of victory Thursday as they chased Scotland's 210, but was out with 19 runs needed, 19 balls remaining and one wicket standing. The last-wicket pair of Hamid Hassan (15 not out) and Shapoor Zadran (12 not out) combined in a nerveless partnership which completed the famous win with three balls to spare.
Shapoor struck the third ball of Iain Wardlaw's final over for a boundary to end the most passionately-contested match to date at the 2015 World Cup.
"Thanks to Allah," Shenwari said. "I was thankful to ... get the win for Afghanistan.
"We lost five wickets early and I had the responsibility to stay there till the end. It was a poor shot to get out, but I was trying to get a six. Good win for us in the tournament and we are looking forward to win more."
Afghanistan have been the most impassioned team at the tournament, celebrating every wicket with unrestrained displays of jubilation, including cartwheels and quiet prayers. So far are they from the norm of professional cricket, where players tend to be measured and media-trained, that they have brought a new dimension to the tournament.
Afghanistan are competing at their first World Cup in the 50-over format and none of the 14 teams contesting the quadrennial event has had a tougher road to the tournament. War has affected Afghanistan's security and infrastructure.
Yet this squad of 15 players, many of whom have spent time as refugees outside their homeland, have achieved the tremendous feat first of qualifying for this tournament, then of traveling to the other side of the world to participate in it, and finally to achieve a win in only their third match at the most elite level.
In terms of cricket, "There was nothing before. You can look 10 or eight years ago, there was nothing in Afghanistan," Shenwari said. "But now you can say the streets, school, everything you go, it's just cricket and cricket, so maybe in next 10 years ...."
Afghanistan bowled well to dismiss Scotland for 210 from the final ball of the 50th over.
Shapoor Zadran (4-38) and Dhawat Zadran (3-29) reduced Scotland to 144-8 on a seaming pitch before a 62-run ninth wicket stand between Majid Haq (31) and Alasdair Evans lifted the Scots past 200 for the first time at a World Cup.
Afghanistan then made a vibrant beginning to their innings, rushing to 42-0 after seven overs. But the innings went into a spiral, with Afghanistan slumping to 97-7 before Shenwari began to stabilise the run chase.
Scotland then seemed to have the upper hand and, in a match between teams that had never won a World Cup match, their claim to victory seemed equally compelling.
But Shenwari began building his and Afghanistan's innings and slowly the course of the game turned again. He resolutely defended any ball that contained a threat and preserved his wicket with ferocious determination until the runs required and balls remaining began to move into closer synchronization.
He lost partners regularly. Mohammad Nabi (1), Asfar Zazai (0), Najibullah Zadran (4) and Gulbadin Naib (0) were all out as the Afghanistan innings tottered on the verge of total collapse. But there was another partnership to rally the innings, and then Hamid helped add 60 for the ninth wicket in a partnership that turned the match.
Shenwari finally went on the offensive, striking three sixes from the bowling of Haq in the 47th over. But he was out going for another six, caught in the deep by Josh Davey. Haq knelt in exhausted relief and in hope that the match had tipped in Scotland's favour.
Shapoor and Hamid, then set about the task of scoring the final runs, knowing any more dismissals would result in defeat. They slowly defrayed the runs required and came to the last over needing five runs from six balls. Hamid took a single from the first ball and Shapoor struck the third — a low full toss on leg stump — for the winning boundary.
Shapoor set off on a delirious run to the corner of the ground where a small group of New Zealand-based Afghanis, who had raucously supported their team throughout the match, were waiting to greet him.